Summary: After her best friend Cali dies in a senseless car accident, Lexi turns to silence in response to her feelings of grief and guilt. Through court-appointed volunteer work, Lexi is assigned to be a companion for Joanie, another seventeen year-old girl who lives at the hospital. Joanie is also silent, but her silence is because of a neuromuscular disorder, not by choice. Together, Lexi and Joanie both find their voices through a blossoming friendship, and the use of a computer called the Wizard that can read Joanie’s eye movements. When their friendship comes to an untimely end, Lexi is left to pick up the pieces of herself and figure out how to move on.
Number of Pages: 261
Age Range: 14-16
Review: A complex yet sensitive read, The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw gives readers a window into the perspective of a teenage girl dealing with a neuromuscular disorder. Joanie is at the whim of her body and unable to communicate as others do without assistance. Lexi’s companionship opens up new opportunities for both of them, as well as a deep friendship that goes beyond words.
Though the characters are believable and thoughtful, I had a hard time reading this book because of the subject matter. I find myself triggered when it comes to reading books about hospitals, and while I was happy to read a teen fiction book about a character with a neuromuscular disorder, because I have one myself I wanted more specifics about what type it actually was. I was also very disappointed when Joanie died, as so many books about teens dealing with illness end the same way.
But for those who don’t have the personal experience that Joanie has, The Color of Silence is an eye-opening, lyrical read. I loved Lexi’s journey through grief and how she blamed herself for her friend Cali’s actions. In the face of such a random accident, it was easy to empathize with Lexi and understand why she would keep replaying how she could have done things differently in her head.
An emotional and enjoyable story geared toward younger to mid female teen readers, I’d recommend Shaw’s book for those looking for character development and insight.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others…. they too have their story.” – (Excerpt from Desiderata, Max Ehrmann 1927) from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, Preface
“I actually use words very well. I have listened to stories and movies and plays and people talking around me and to me for seventeen years. I am so full of words and thoughts and images that if I ever could figure out a way to let them loose, they would come swirling out of me in a torrent of syllables, sweeping aside anyone unlucky enough to be standing in their path. I would fill every room with the colors of my dreams until the whole world became a rainbow of my making.
If I could figure out a way.” – Joanie from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, page 30
“For a long time, all I did was cry. But it didn’t make the pain go away.
It just made it wet.
At some point I ran out of tears. Now I’m nothing but a hollow tree, empty and dry, just waiting for someone to come and chop me down.” – Lexi from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, pages 36-37
“My raggedy outsides hide my brain as well. Even though some people treat me like I can think and feel, no one really understands how much of me there really is. Maybe someday I’ll find my own wizard who will show the world that I have a fully operating brain that was really inside of me all along. Maybe he’ll give me a diploma to hang on my wall so people can read it, even if they can’t read me.” – Joanie from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, page 82
“They feel sorry for me. Not in the apologizing kind of way but in the way that says they think my life is somehow less because it is different.
When I was younger, I sometimes overheard people saying things like ‘it’s a shame’ and ‘too bad she’s so damaged.’ Damaged! A strange word to use for a person. As if I’m broken or something. I tried not to listen, but it’s hard to do when they’re standing right in my room and speaking in perfectly loud voices, seemingly believing that my ears are unable to hear their words. At least I’m guessing that’s what they believed.” – Joanie from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, page 106
“From what I can see and imagine, it seems as if anger usually comes when people think they don’t have control over some part of their lives. The feeling of being unable to change something no matter how much you want to seems to fill people with storms.
I have no control over any aspect of my outside life. I should be filled with wind and rain and dark clouds that threaten me every moment of every day. But I’m not. There are clouds in there sometimes, definitely, but mostly I want to be filled with sunlight and rainbows and things that make my life better, not harder.
But maybe it’s because I never had the control in the first place, so I was never faced with losing it.
Maybe people’s anger comes from the loss.” – Joanie from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, page 120
“Being sorry doesn’t make it go away.
Being sorry doesn’t make it all right.
Being sorry doesn’t make time go backward so you can fix it.
Being sorry doesn’t make you a better person.
Being sorry doesn’t bring people back to where they’re supposed to be.
Sorry is a useless word. It should be thrown out of the dictionary.” – Lexi from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, page 159
“Does Alexandra ever think about dying, I wonder? Do most people our age wonder how long their bodies are going to last, or do they put off thinking about that stuff until they are wrinkled and gray-haired and ready for a bed in a hospital room?” – Joanie from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, pages 194-195
“Death doesn’t care about love. It just comes in and takes whoever it wants. Death isn’t about losing someone. When you lose something, usually there’s a chance that you might find it again. Death is nothing but a thief, and when it steals someone away from you, that’s it.” – Lexi from The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw, page 241
The Color of Silence by Liane Shaw is published by Second Story Press, (2013).